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Last week both the House and Senate overturned a presidential veto on the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA), setting in motion for the first time in seven years authorization for updating the
Thursday the Senate voted 79-14 to override the President's veto of WRDA. Late Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 361-54 to override the President's veto.
"After almost two decades of work by corn growers, millions of dollars spent on studies, seven years of waiting on the legislative process, a presidential veto and then a veto override by the U.S. Congress, we finally have achieved authorization to modernize seven locks on the Upper Mississippi River System," said National Corn Growers Association President Ron Litterer.
The water resources development legislation includes authorization to spend $3.6 billion to construct seven new 1,200-foot locks at locks 20, 21, 22, 24 and 25 on the
The legislation authorizes the Army Corp of Engineers to undertake water infrastructure improvement projects across the
The total price tag exceeds $21 billion. The final number nearly doubled after the House-Senate conference, the major reason why President Bush vetoed the bill.
Agricultural groups argued the updates are critical in keeping
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he's seen the investment that
Approximately one-third of
A study released last week by the
More than 60 million tons of goods valued at more than $29 billion crossed these locks in 2005, said Seth Meyer, agricultural economist at the MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. Barges provide a lower cost mode of transportation for a wide range of commodities. Shipping the same 2005 commodity volumes to the same destinations would cost an additional $580 million by rail and $1.6 billion by truck, according to figures in the study.
Getting the authorization has been no easy task, but agricultural groups recognize funds still need to go through the yearly appropriations process.
Overturning the president's veto is just a "permission slip" to seek funding through the annual appropriations process, a statement from NCGA said. For several years, ag groups have worked to secure pre-construction dollars for the Upper Mississippi River System projects, but the real work now begins with a full-court press to obtain construction dollars through the annual appropriations process, Litterer said.
The National Grain and Feed Association added the appropriations process "provides lawmakers and the Administration with ample opportunity to set specific waterway project priorities and discern which ones merit federal funding."
The NGFA also noted that current law requires that 50% of the cost of waterway projects be funded by 20-cent-per-gallon fuel taxes levied on commercial barge users, including the grain, feed and fertilizer sectors. The NGFA said that while commercial users operating on the